JOURNAL ARTICLE

Safety Recommendations for Evaluation and Surgery of the Head and Neck During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Babak Givi, Bradley A Schiff, Steven B Chinn, Daniel Clayburgh, N Gopalakrishna Iyer, Scharukh Jalisi, Michael G Moore, Cherie-Ann Nathan, Lisa A Orloff, James P O'Neill, Noah Parker, Chad Zender, Luc G T Morris, Louise Davies
JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery 2020 March 31
32232423

Importance: The rapidly expanding novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, has challenged the medical community to an unprecedented degree. Physicians and health care workers are at added risk of exposure and infection during the course of patient care. Because of the rapid spread of this disease through respiratory droplets, health care workers who come in close contact with the upper aerodigestive tract during diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, such as otolaryngologists-head and neck surgeons, are particularly at risk. A set of safety recommendations was created based on a review of the literature and communications with physicians with firsthand knowledge of safety procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Observations: A high number of health care workers were infected during the first phase of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan, China. Subsequently, by adopting strict safety precautions, other regions were able to achieve high levels of safety for health care workers without jeopardizing the care of patients. The most common procedures related to the examination and treatment of upper aerodigestive tract diseases were reviewed. Each category was reviewed based on the potential risk imposed to health care workers. Specific recommendations were made based on the literature, when available, or consensus best practices. Specific safety recommendations were made for performing tracheostomy in patients with COVID-19.

Conclusions and Relevance: Preserving a highly skilled health care workforce is a top priority for any community and health care system. Based on the experience of health care systems in Asia and Europe, by following strict safety guidelines, the risk of exposure and infection of health care workers could be greatly reduced while providing high levels of care. The provided recommendations, which may evolve over time, could be used as broad guidance for all health care workers who are involved in the care of patients with COVID-19.

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